“The Rolls Royce of...” is a clichéd expression, but in the case of the Sena 20S it is applicable. Sena’s top-of-the-line communications device truly does have it all, including listening to music, receiving GPS navigation instructions, making phone calls, intercom between rider/passenger and bike-to-bike, and an FM radio with a small fold-up antenna.
The 20S also has voice command functionality, as well as movement detection where either tapping or shaking the unit (the sensitivity can be adjusted) can make things happen.
All the individual components on the 20S are of the highest quality. The standard boom type microphone can be easily swapped out for a (provided) wired microphone; I opted for that, as it is a little less bulky inside the close-set chinbar of my Arai Corsair-V.
The 20S slides on to a helmet clamp that carries the wires to the speakers and microphone. The clamp hangs down below the helmet rim, so you will need to experiment with placement to prevent it catching on the shoulder of your jacket.
The device itself slides on to the clamp; due to a fairly tight fit, it’s easy to think the 20S is in place when it is not. Make sure you squeeze it firmly until you hear and feel a slight click from the metal release button. Otherwise, the unit will work slightly loose, leaving you wondering why it keeps cutting out.
Booting up quickly, the 20S pairs almost instantly to my iPhone. The clarity from the speakers is a conspicuous improvement over other systems we have tested. When using the intercom bike-to-bike with other Sena users, the noise-canceling circuitry is so good that at speeds up to 50 mph, it is like we are driving together in a car. That’s an astonishing feat.
The voice-activation is super-quick, so unlike other systems where you need to click or cough to activate—or risk losing your first word—the Sena doesn’t need that. Just talk, and the other person hears it. The volume the 20S pumps out also impresses me; I could listen to music at 80 mph on an unfaired bike—while wearing earplugs. Also, battery life is impressive when used for either bike-to-bike communication or listening to music.
Clearly designed for motorcycle riders and using a large multi-function jog wheel on the unit, even a heavily gloved hand easily finds the wheel, the button inside it, as well as the button at the rear of the unit. One long click-and-hold of a button starts the intercom function; one quick click wakes the phone and, with my iPhone, starts Siri.
To my delight, Siri works very well with the 20S, and I attribute that to the quietness of my Arai and Sena’s excellent noise-canceling. At speeds up to about 50 mph, I could instruct Siri with ease, including sending a text to my better half that all is well; above that, there was enough noise to distract Siri from the task.
The 20S is pairable with up to eight other headsets at the same time and, using the ability to have a second Bluetooth profile, not only does the 20S work with GPS devices, radar detectors, and so on, but you can also connect a two-way radio (walkie-talkie) using the accessory Sena SR10 adapter.
Sena’s latest accessory is the Prism camera; a Bluetooth-connectable video camera that can be controlled by the 20S using voice prompts. Sena’s suction mount uses two suction cups instead of the usual single one, which often falls victim to vibration. The double cup seems like a good idea, but in practice I discovered that it’s fairly tough to find two flatish sections of gas tank close enough together to be able to use it.
Fortunately, the supplied handlebar mount is excellent and attached to the upright bars on my bike with no hassle at all—and it is much firmer than suction cups. The other option is to attach the camera to the side of your helmet, and a supplied clamp (similar to the communicator) does the job exceedingly well.
The camera itself is a slimline unit that’s quite a bit smaller overall than a GoPro and without the boxy width, too. The vertical design is well suited to attaching to the side of a helmet, as it is more aerodynamic.
I tried taking advantage of the 20S’s capability to run two Bluetooth profiles at once, but never managed to make a seamless transition from phone (music) and back to camera. In the end, I opted to simply operate one or the other, and not both at the same time.
Once paired, the Prism can be awakened or put into sleep mode, and video recording turned on/off. The really cool part is that you can use the 20S’s microphone to send sound to the Prism via Bluetooth. So, as you are riding, you can happily commentate on what you’re seeing. Audio quality is excellent; as with everything else about the Sena systems, and I was very impressed.
Picture quality is full HD (1080p at 30fps) and the camera works flawlessly. If you use the camera’s internal microphone and forego commentating through your headset, then setting it to Low cuts out a lot of the wind noise; this is achieved through the Prism’s highly intuitive onboard menu system.
Both the Sena 20S and Prism camera are a marvel—the performance of the electronics is outstanding. Several staffers use them and we all agree — the Sena 20S is absolutely the best communications and camera system we have tested.
For additional information, visit Sena.
Review from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.